Espinoza: Is Mayor Rama’s Singapore-like dream bound to fail?

Espinoza: Is Mayor Rama’s Singapore-like dream bound to fail?

I feel so positive that not one Cebuano would ever oppose the dream of Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama to transform the city into like Singapore. Those who’ve been to the island state could attest how orderly and neat the city is all because the Singaporeans are disciplined and the laws are strictly enforced without fear or favor.

When President BBM learned of Mayor Rama’s Singapore-like dream, he quipped: “Mayor Mike, you’re ambitious.” But Rama’s minion was quick to say it’s a vision. Yes, but that vision has a twin, and that is the Office of the Mayor’s proposal to increase taxes in the city to achieve the executive department’s P50-billion proposed budget for next year.

So, the next question is, what would happen to the Singapore-like vision of Mayor Rama if the City Council disapproved the increase in real property taxes as well as fees for all types of permits? But the city mayor should not forgo his Singapore-like dreams even if his P50-billion proposed budget would not be approved since cleaning the city is a matter of enforcing laws to the letter.

The City Council presided by Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia has been conducting the public hearings on the executive department’s proposal to impose a 7,000-percent increase in real property tax, which is an accumulation because the City has not imposed the increase in real property taxes since 2006.

But most city councilors, even those belonging to the Barug Party of the city mayor, are not convinced with the argument of lawyer Jerone Castillo, the city mayor’s special assistant on fiscal affairs, that the proposed increase in real property tax is not beyond the legal ceiling.

The city councilors are the representatives of city residents such that the public hearing is only conducted at the City Council. However, even if the city councilors already represent the interests of the city residents and businesses during the public hearing, a survey on the people’s sentiments on this huge property tax increase is still imperative.

Unverified rumors have it that this property tax increase as proposed by the executive department is aimed at putting the legislators in a bad light because if they approved the tax increase, they would bear the brunt of the taxpayers’ ire and they could inevitably suffer the consequences in the midterm polls.

Vice Mayor Garcia has been silent on this issue perhaps because he belongs to a big clan that has businesses in the city and that if he speaks in defense of the taxpayers he will be accused of bias by his political detractors. But for me, the vice mayor should make a stand now rather than just keep his view to himself and do the ministerial job of banging the gavel.

It’s no longer a secret to the political pundits in Cebu that Vice Mayor Garcia has plans of slugging it out in the mayoralty race come the midterm polls on May 12, 2025. So, it’s about time that the vice mayor shows his political prowess. Or, is it too early since the last general elections were only held on May 9 this year?

Back to Mayor Rama’s Singapore-like vision for the city, cannot he and the City Council achieve it without the P50-billion budget? The city mayor could start by ordering the strict enforcement of the city’s sanitation laws without fear or favor just like how the Singapore government does it.


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